Sunday, October 30, 2011

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Vs (2011)

This review is part of my coverage of the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, taking place October 20-27 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For more information, check out their website. For my full coverage go here.

Four superheroes wake up in an isolated small town rigged to explode if they don't follow the rules of a vengeful villain's (James Remar) homicidal obstacle course. Charge (Jason Trost), Cutthroat (Lucas Till), Shadow (Sophie Merkley), and The Wall (Lee Valmassy) were once a crimefighting team before going their separate ways due to ego struggles and relationship drama, but now they find they must either work together or kill each other if they want to get out alive and save the various innocent hostages tied up around the town.

Vs has a really solid premise. I enjoy dark superhero stories, and this one definitely has a Watchmen-esque take on things as the characters' relationships are explored and their very human flaws and uncertainties are given focus instead of their superpowers (they've been injected with a power-muffling serum) or witty quips. Everyone is expendable, which is also nice for a less predictable story. Unfortunately the execution doesn't live up to the promise of the set-up.

With uneven performances, some questionable narrative choices, weak characterization, and a tendency to take itself too seriously, Vs just doesn't really work for me. I wanted to like it because I think the premise is so promising, but wound up being very disappointed. The cheesy flashbacks and stilted dialogue were unintentionally laughable at points, and while the effects are decent the action isn't very engaging. I'll spare you my seething diatribe about the incredibly incompetent, whiny, useless female superhero "Shadow", who gets to stare blankly at the boys while wearing high heels and waiting to be ordered around, but suffice to say her character alone is enough to forfeit any respect I might have for this film.

James Remar looks like he's having a fun time as the cocky bad guy and Lucas Till is pretty, but there's little to really recommend in this film. It's mostly wasted opportunities with a few showy moments. It strives for affecting superhero drama but manages to lay on the cheese with a dated Fantastic Four-esque dynamic and unconvincing characters. I would actually love to see someone remake this with a bigger budget and stronger script. I'm not trying to dump on the filmmakers here, I recognize that a lot of hard work and dedication went into making this film, the execution just didn't work for me.

But seriously, are we really not past these stupid, infantile, one-dimensional depictions of women in superhero movies yet? It's one thing when they're being adapted from 60's comic books but this is a new character written for the screen in a 2011 release. I continue to be infuriated by the lack of any decent female superheroes, it just seems like we should really be over this by now. Is Tank Girl all I'm ever going to get?

2/5

Pair This Movie With: Well I didn't really care for the Watchmen movie but maybe if you like that you'd like this too? Long double feature, though. I would recommend to instead read Uncanny X-Men #123 with Arcade when he traps the team in a high-concept obstacle course. Good times.

Vs facebook page
Vs trailer

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Manborg (2011)

This review is part of my coverage of the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, taking place October 20-27 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For more information, check out their website. For my full coverage go here.

OK so this movie is called Manborg. What the fuck else do you need to know about it? Except that the tagline is "Revenge is back".

Fine fine I WILL WRITE AN ACTUAL REVIEW. Brought to us by the Astron-6 collective (my new favorite people), Manborg is a short and sweet low-budget sci-fi parody that envisions a future after Hell wins a war with Earth. In a mechanized city populated with demons, the remaining humans are forced to fight for entertainment. When the mysterious half-man, half-robot known as Manborg (Matthew Kennedy) appears, the human prisoners make a plan to escape and overcome their tyrannical overlords with his help.

At a trim 60 minutes, Manborg offers perfect goofy entertainment and never overstays its welcome (unlike a number of other similarly-minded parodies). The premise is appropriately silly and interesting, with a hilarious cast of mismatched characters and effects that surpass (and at times betray) the $1000 budget. With the good guys there's an outspoken Australian gunman (Conor Sweeney), his knife-wielding sister (Meredith Sweeney), and advanced martial artist Number One Man (Ludwig Lee, dubbed hilariously by Kyle Herbert). With the bad guys there's the melodramatic Dr Scorpius (Adam Brooks), the evil demon lord Draculon (also Adam Brooks), and his second-in-command the Baron (Jeremy Gillespie), who just wants to be loved! Everyone feels vaguely familiar due to the various genre-specific references, but the likable cast imbues the characters with layers of comedy and sometimes badassery. It's like Mad Max, Mortal Kombat, Robocop, The Terminator, and everything that's awesome rolled together to make something even better?

The more I think about this movie the more I want to watch it again. The one reservation I had going in was the visuals, since the entire thing is shot in front of a green screen and the effects are purposefully (I assume?) sort of shitty. But writer/director Steve Kostanski is also a stop-motion animator, and I loved the various stop-motion monsters and effects he incorporated into the film. It gives it a simultaneously retro and modern-day feel. Plus the costumes were pretty cool (read: I dug Meredith Sweeney's blue wig), with various mechanical things constructed out of everyday objects.

Most of Manborg doesn't make any sense, but all of it is hilarious and amazing. Thank you Astron-6.

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: The silliness, enthusiasm, and shoestring budget of the Astron-6 crew remind me a little of Trey Parker's student film Cannibal! The Musical. Alternatively, the Baron character is reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda parody webseries, The Legend of Neil.

Astron-6 official site
Manborg trailer
Manborg Q&A at TADFF

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: The Divide (2011)

This review is part of my coverage of the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, taking place October 20-27 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For more information, check out their website. For my full coverage go here.

As the world crumbles and burns around them, nine residents of an apartment building barricade themselves in the well-fortified basement where the curmudgeonly super resides. Fearful of nuclear radiation they remain there and eventually become trapped by an unknown military force outside, and as alliances are formed and sickness takes over their mental states deteriorate with increasingly violent results.

Like so many post-apocalyptic movies, The Divide reminds us that most people are monsters at heart and craziness is always just around the corner. The major players here are Eva (Lauren German), a wide-eyed recovering drug addict who doubts her commitment to her clueless partner Sam (Iván González); Josh (Milo Ventimiglia) and his friend Bobby (Michael Eklund), who both embark on a destructive power trip when they get control of the supplies; Mickey (Michael Biehn), the paranoid super with a violent temper; and Marilyn (Rosanna Arquette), a middle-aged mother who just breaks after her daughter is taken away. Most of the performances are strong, with the actors partially improvising their dialogue and character arcs- director Xavier Gens filmed in sequence and put his actors on a 30-day diet, so it's safe to say the cast became pretty involved in their roles. Lauren German is the weakest link, and the film suffers for it since she's meant to be the main protagonist. She spends most of the film ambling about with nice hair and no personality to speak of, plus she's got a mad case of the stares. It's annoying.

Though The Divide is showing us a premise we've all seen before, it is bold and creative in its complete focus on the moment. There are no flashbacks or expository character backgrounds, there is very little attention given to the outside world (the main trip out is in the beginning); the characters are so completely shut-in and cut-off that they (along with the audience) forget there is anything outside those walls. This story is all about what these people are doing here and now, not what they did before the world ended or what they will do if they ever get out. Escape seems to be forgotten early on and only survival matters.

This movie is a brutal experience. It's well-shot, I liked the score, and most of the performances are strong, but the meandering script and blank lead character make it less successful than it could have been, plus the story takes a few turns that don't make any sense. The most important thing is that Michael Biehn was there in person and I saw him and it was amazing. Michael Fuckingggg Biehnnnnnnnn.

3.5/5

Pair This Movie With: I think this would be kind of cool to play as a precursor to The Road- like maybe this is what was going on before the Father and Son started their journey.

The Divide official site
The Divide trailer

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: A Lonely Place to Die (2011)

This review is part of my coverage of the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, taking place October 20-27 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For more information, check out their website. For my full coverage go here.

Merging survivalist thriller with action-packed chase movie, A Lonely Place to Die focuses on a group of thrill-seeking mountain climbers exploring the Scottish Highlands. When they come upon a young Serbian girl buried alive in the middle of the woods, their vacation is suddenly catapulted into a deadly chase populated with sheer cliffs, killer kidnappers, a pagan festival, and mercenaries with questionable motives. Experienced climber and presumably professional badass Alison (Melissa George) leads the way as the group tries to find help in the closest village.

With extensive birds-eye views of Scotland's gorgeous mountains and impressive on-location climbing action, A Lonely Place is a tense, engaging film from start to finish. At first I thought it would be a nail-biter survivalist film, which really isn't my thing because I am far too paranoid and squeamish for such matters, but after the characters are established in the opening scenes it pretty quickly changes over into a well-executed chase thriller with terrifying realism. A lot of people die in this movie and I had no idea how far sibling filmmakers Julian and Will Gibney would take their story, making the high stakes and removed setting all the more intensely felt.

The main thing we can take away from this movie- besides that mountain climbing is terrifying and Serbian crime lords are totally creepy- is that Melissa George is fucking hardcore. Her character is immediately shown to be the most capable in the film and continues to display signs of utter badassery with each passing scene. She takes a beating (both physically and emotionally) but refuses to stay down and pushes on through sheer force of will. It's amazing. The rest of the cast is good too but she is just so strong and resourceful it's hypnotic.

While some of the script's details are a little fuzzy or convoluted, for the most part A Lonely Place is tightly-paced, with beautiful cinematography, strong characterization, and a bit of a mystery. Our heroes have stumbled into a major conspiracy completely accidentally, and for most of the film they have no idea who is chasing them or why exactly, which makes things more exciting and even scary for the audience. It's definitely one of the best films I've seen at Toronto After Dark.

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Maybe it's just because I've got Michael Biehn on the brain (he was at TADFF for his thriller The Divide- more on that later), but I could see this going well with The Terminator. They're both well-executed chase movies with a cool lady.

A Lonely Place to Die facebook

A Lonely Place to Die trailer

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Love (2011)

This review is part of my coverage of the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, taking place October 20-27 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For more information, check out their website. For my full coverage go here.

My most highly-anticipated film for Toronto After Dark was definitely Love. At first I only knew it as "that Angels & Airwaves movie" (the band both scored and produced the film) but after seeing the trailer my interest was more than piqued. Beginning with a bloody Civil War battle and then jumping ahead to 2039, Love primarily focuses on the experiences of Captain Lee Miller, an astronaut stranded alone on a small space station as an unknown apocalyptic event seemingly destroys mankind on Earth.

With a set composed mostly from found items and parts bought at Home Depot (constructed in the filmmaker's parents' backyard) and a production time spanning four years, Love comes off like a mini-miracle. It manages to be both intensely personal in subject and all-encompassing in scope, with a somewhat minimalist script and enough outer space shenanigans to pack a visual punch. Gunner Wright effectively carries the film, giving a sympathetic, tragic, and at times quite funny performance as he slowly loses his mind in a confined space. His total isolation and disconnect from the outside world is palpable, aided by the evocative electronic score and writer/director William Eubank's thoughtful direction.

Having primarily worked as a cinematographer before Love, Eubank's vision is ambitious, imaginative, and mostly successful. The opening Civil War scenes are breathtaking, and the surreal ending plays tricks on the eye in an unexpected way. Unfortunately some of the spacey stuff doesn't work, with a few sort of cheesy effects towards the end.

There is a turning point in Love that will probably leave most viewers pondering the film's exact meaning, and is likely to turn some people off completely. I think it's a nice blending of far-reaching science-fiction and introspective exploration of the human condition, managing to get in its titular message without being too sappy. I am left with questions though and am still sorting through my feelings about the film as a whole- especially the ending- so I'll need a re-watch or two to determine my final thoughts.

4/5 (for now)

Pair This Movie With: Definitely Moon. Or if you want to go more old school, try Silent Running.

William Eubank official site
Love trailer

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Father's Day (2011)

This review is part of my coverage of the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, taking place October 20-27 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For more information, check out their website. For my full coverage go here.

A one-eyed vigilante, a topless stripper with a chainsaw, a nearsighted cannibal rapist, incest, demonic possession, trips to both heaven and hell, a non sequitur commercial for low-budget sci-fi STAR RAIDERS, hallucinogenic berries; Father's Day- Canadian collective Astron-6's newest feature- seems to be an exercise in "Just how much fuckery can we pack into one movie?" When a string of ritualistic murder-dismemberments of fathers pop up around the city, young priest Father John Sullivan (Matthew Kennedy) tracks down maple syrup-obsessed hermit Ahab (Adam Brooks), a trained assassin who seeks vengeance against the known father-killer Chris Fuchman (Mackenzie Murdock). They team up with Ahab's sister Chelsea (Amy Groening) and her paranoid friend Twink (Conor Sweeney) to take the Fuchman down, only to uncover a demonic conspiracy that's been around for centuries.

This is a pretty weird fucking movie, which I guess is why I was bound to like it. It starts off as a gross-out grindhouse throwback with sickening effects (and real pig intestines!) and a recognizable parody structure. But then it just takes this turn into wackiness, pretty much forgets the whole father-serial-killer-thing, and becomes all the better for it. The script is inventive and farcical, the dialogue is downright ridiculous, and the main cast looks like they're having a blast just hanging out being silly together. It looks pretty good too, with a grungy exploitation palette and some nice stop-motion towards the end. Best of all it has one of my favorite things- a gun-toting religious figure! I love it when priests/nuns are lured into sex and violence!

My biggest issue with Father's Day is that it tries to do too much, and as a result the tone is wildly uneven. Admittedly I'm really squeamish so this is a personal thing, but all the dad-rape cannibalism stuff in the beginning was just way too gross to be funny or interesting, and it doesn't fit with the rest of the film's more lighthearted and ludicrous atmosphere. They don't need shock value or gross-out scares for this movie to be entertaining, and I liked the other parts of it so much that I wish that aspect had been left out. On the whole it's very enjoyable and certainly memorable, but I can't all-out love a movie with so many moments during which I have to look away from the screen.

4/5

PS Dude, Lloyd Kaufman, keep the Star Raiders spot in the movie! It's hilarious!

PPS I have a longer and better written review of this movie at 366 Weird Movies! Hurray!

Pair This Movie With: This movie reminded me a little bit of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, but it's much better. It'd go well with Rodriguez grindhouse throwbacks Planet Terror or Machete too.

Astron-6
Father's Day official site
Father's Day trailer

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Toronto After Dark Film Festival: Monster Brawl (2011)

This review is part of my coverage of the 2011 Toronto After Dark Film Festival, taking place October 20-27 at the Toronto Underground Cinema. For more information, check out their website. For my full coverage go here.

Toronto After Dark kicked off its week-long genre festival with a punch as Canadian filmmaker Jesse Cook's Monster Brawl took opening night. Set in a haunted graveyard near Lake Michigan, the film plays as a Wrestlemania-esque tv special that pairs up eight of horror culture's monsters for a series of deadly matches. Witch Bitch fights the Cyclops, Lady Vampire fights the Mummy, and the Werewolf, Zombie Man, Swamp Gut, and Frankenstein (...'s monster) fight it off for the Heavyweight Championship. Buzz Chambers (Dave Foley) and Sasquatch Sid Tucker (Art Hindle) commentate from a nearby shanty, and various flashbacks are shown to round out the fighters' circumstances.

With a bare-bones premise and limited resources, Monster Brawl does manage to do a lot with a little. It's essentially a versus video game stretched out to a feature-length film, and it works to an extent due to the attention to parodic detail, the funny script, and the enthusiastic cast. Of course I loved Dave Foley as the miserable commentator Buzz, who gets drunker and drunker as the fights progress, and Kelly Couture as Lady Vampire was a fucking animal in the ring. Jimmy Hart has a silly time as himself, an excitable announcer who gets to hang out with two bikini-clad ladies. The backstories are mostly pretty funny and clever, especially Swamp Gut's environmental documentary-style origin.

The effects are strong, with some imaginative make-up and prosthetics, and the fights are well choreographed, but really the concept just cannot work for a full-length movie. It's a fun idea and certainly one that many adolescent nerds will latch on to, but the long series of fights with very little narrative thread doesn't hold together for a runtime longer than 45 minutes. The film is executed well and it looks like everyone had a fun time working on it- the filmmaker and several castmembers were in attendance and we even got to see a little smack talking action- so I appreciated it as an easy to digest, crowd-pleasing start to the festival.

Also I was happy the monsters I rooted for won their battles!

3/5

Pair This Movie With: It'd be pretty silly to team it with a classic example of the monster genre, like the 1931 Frankenstein or something. Or for more funny commentators and fake sports you can't go wrong with BASEketball.

Monster Brawl official site
Monster Brawl trailer

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween (1978)

Seen: On dvd on our big screen/projector set-up.

Horror is definitely a film genre in which I feel woefully unversed. I'm a bit of a wimp and in some ways pretty squeamish so I've avoided a lot of the bigger-name ones on purpose. I'm trying to rectify that somewhat since really I need to just man up (MAN UP!) and see some movies. John Carpenter's Halloween seemed like a good place to start. First-time-performer Jamie Lee Curtis stars as Laurie, a bookish high school student stuck babysitting on Halloween night. Unbeknownst to her, local deranged killer Michael Myers has broken out of a mental hospital and is on his way to continue the killing spree he began when he was 6. And Laurie's in his way.

With an almost ponderously slow pace, thoughtful use of first-person POV, and several scenes of Donald Pleasence levelly prophesying impending doom, Halloween succeeds in freaking out its audience by holding a lot back. Every shot seems to show off how deliberate it is, with Carpenter making full use of the questionable innocence of the quiet suburban street on which most of his story takes place. The haunting repetitive theme and closed-in settings of the two main houses increase the tension strung throughout the film.

A lot of this movie is just spying on teenage girls hanging out while babysitting, so it's lucky that PJ Soles, Nancy Kyes, and especially Jamie Lee Curtis are all so good in their roles. The former two prance around in limited clothing with attitudes that command respect, while the latter earns our attention with her expressive face and somewhat androgynous style. Donald Pleasence has the most entertaining part as Dr Sam Loomis, Michael Myers' long-time psychiatrist who frequently reminds us that we are in the presence of pure evil with cryptic, doomy utterances. He knows exactly how unhinged Myers really is but no one seems to actually believe him.

Halloween succeeds most fully in its depiction of the killer himself. Almost nothing is known about Myers except that he killed his sister when he was 6 and spent the rest of his life locked up. He never speaks, his face is never shown, and no attempt is made to offer an explanation for his doings. According to Loomis he's just an amoral sociopath with a knife. There is absolutely no clear reason for his actions, which makes him all the more terrifying and Laurie's predicament all the more compelling. As much as I'd like to know more about him, I appreciated Carpenter's minimalistic approach to his tale, which manages to both satisfy while leaving the audience hungry for more.

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: I haven't seen it but Sasha recommends Friday the 13th.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Outland (1981)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge.
85/100 on the
Sci-Fi List.

"On Io, one of Jupiter's moons, Sean Connery is the law." An awkward tagline, it's true, but pretty inviting! Outland is a spaced-out version of High Noon... a movie I've never seen. Connery plays Marshall O'Niel, assigned to Io, a titanium mining colony with harsh living conditions and an overworked crew. Shortly after his arrival two miners wig out and seemingly commit suicide. As O'Niel investigates their deaths, he stumbles upon a drug conspiracy and corruption within the complex's administration. With no one to trust except the cantankerous Dr Lazarus, he must navigate the claustrophobic space station's criminal underbelly and avoid being killed in the process.

I'm not going to lie, I was sort of drugged out during this movie (a prescription thing, not anything illegal don't worry), so my memory of it is sort of wonky. I know I liked it, though. I thought it would be campier, mainly because some of the costume designs are a little ridiculous (do all cops have to wear baseball caps?) and I don't know, Sean Connery in space seems like a comedic idea. But Outland is actually a pretty straight thriller with western elements and some heavy violence. I dug Connery in the lead role, a man who takes his job really seriously and suffers for it. Frances Sternhagen steals the show as the blunt and world-weary doctor who helps O'Niel figure out what's going on, and Peter Boyle has fun as a super-beardy bad guy.

The visuals are pretty cool, with gritty metal interiors, a dim color palette, and flashy lighting. At times it plays a little like a horror movie, with unexpected freaky occurrences and some unsavory space gore. It's slow at points and a little confusing at others because at first I couldn't keep some of the characters straight (again, this could be the drugs talking), but for the most part it's surprisingly good!

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Well even though I haven't seen it I assume High Noon would be a good double feature. Otherwise, I could see Event Horizon as a pairing.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Di Renjie (Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame) (2010)

Seen: At the Landmark Cinema Kendall Square in Cambridge.

With a name like Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame and the promise of spontaneous combustion, this movie was an easy sell. Inspired by real-life Tang Dynasty official Di Renjie, the film sees the highly-skilled fighter/detective Dee (Andy Lau) released from jail (after 8 years incarceration for treason) to help catch a mysterious murderer. Empress Wu Zetian (Carina Lau), the first female emperor of China, is preparing for her inauguration ceremony and worries that a series of people around her bursting into flame is the work of rebel groups trying to discredit her reign. Dee teams up with the empress's whip-wielding bodyguard Jing'er (Bingbing Li) and hardened police officer Pei (Chao Deng).

With high-flying action, a badass cast of characters, and some weird fantasy elements, Detective Dee has the makings of a really cool martial arts flick. The fight scenes are inventive, incorporating wire-work and a range of weaponry, and the mystery is strange enough to be compelling. There are not one but TWO badass ladies in this movie, with Bingbing Li totally rocking it as the no-nonsense, highly-skilled fighter Jing'er. Seriously, let's get her to play Catwoman, she obviously knows how to throw around a whip convincingly. Carina Lau is awesome as the ruthless empress- even if she's kind of evil I still rooted for her. And I must give her snaps for her courageous fashion efforts.

Unfortunately Detective Dee is bogged down by an over-long and unsatisfying script and distractingly low-quality CGI. It's also a lot more serious than I had expected it to be, as it starts out more lighthearted and then becomes darker as it progresses, I couldn't really get a handle on the tone. It's memorable in its moments of weirdness and fun action, but the mystery isn't actually that great and the potentially interesting characters are under-used.

3.5/5

Pair This Movie With: I don't know why but I was put in the mind of Young Sherlock Holmes.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

It IS Easy Being Green Double Feature: The Muppet Movie (1979) and Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

Seen: On dvd on our big screen/projector set-up (The Muppet Movie) and on my tv (Muppet Treasure Island), both rented from the Tisch Library at Tufts.

Oh boy I'm kind of really looking forward to the new Muppet movie, you guys! I haven't seen too much of the variety show but growing up I enjoyed all the movies and the animated "Muppet Babies" spin-off. They're just a fun group of puppets, really. To psych up for the new film I revisited two of the old standbys: The Muppet Movie- the first feature-length film, which I'd only seen once- and Muppet Treasure Island- a silly adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel that I watched quite often in my bygone youth. And good news: they're both musicals!

When a big movie producer stumbles upon Kermit the Frog playing banjo and cracking jokes in a swamp, he convinces our hero to travel cross-country to Hollywood to break into the movie business. Eventually joined by struggling comedian Fozzie Bear, happy-go-lucky plumber Gonzo (and his chicken wife), aspiring actress Miss Piggy, and various other familiar faces, Kermit drives around singing songs and trying to escape the clutches of a crazy frog legs fast food salesman (Charles Durning).

This is the kind of movie that just puts a smile on your face right away and keeps it there straight through. It isn't uproariously funny, and it is dated at times, but for the most part it's just a pleasant, adorable, goofy experience. The cameos come fast and frequent, with half the cast straight out of a Mel Brooks movie (who makes a fantastic appearance himself much to my delight!). I love the songs from my new favorite person Paul Williams (who also gets a brief cameo), and of course the many Hollywoody jokes, but it's the characters that will always leave the biggest impression. There's a reason the Muppets continue to be loved and re-discovered in new ways today- they're just so darn lovable!

Also I'm totally going to make a gig poster for Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem aka THE BEST-NAMED BAND EVER.

4/5

The Muppets prove their impressive adaptability with Muppet Treasure Island, which manages to keep fairly close to Stevenson's novel while throwing in a wealth of ridiculous gags and fun characters. The general story follows good-hearted [and crazy high-voiced (AND mulleted)] Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop), an adventurous orphan who gets a pirate treasure map and travels on a dangerous voyage to claim the loot. He befriends Long John Silver (Tim Curry), a one-legged cook with questionable intentions, and tries to keep his head around all the weird puppets working on board. There's a lot of singing.

I loved this movie as a kid, I think partially because it is a) Hilarious and b) Wonderfully self-aware. All of the fourth-wall-breaking jokes and anachronisms cracked me up, plus the cast of characters is excellent. Tim Curry rocks hard all the time, and here he's got a bellowing laugh and sadly only one musical number. Billy Connelly and Jennifer Saunders also pop up for a bit. I love Gonzo and Rizzo as Jim's unlikely pals and Miss Piggy in an inspired gender twist as "Benjimina" Gunn. AND THE MUSIC. I dare you to not sing "Sailing for Adventure" all day every day, as I do. Unfortunately, either because I'd seen this one just too many times or because I have grown up just a teeny bit, I wasn't quite as infatuated with Muppet Treasure Island as I remembered. Still awesome, just not the best thing ever. I will say though that Rizzo's rat cruise is one of my favorite sub-plots of any movie.

4/5

PS I'm in Toronto this week! Updating may be spotty. Toronto After Dark, hurray!!!

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

Seen: On VHS on my tv, rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge.

Ok Sasha, I've finally seen Riki-Oh! And it was everything I dreamed it could be and more! Based on the manga of the same name, this insane Hong Kong action flick delivers all the head-explodys and poorly-structured dubbed dialogue you need for a high-on-life kind of evening (seriously, watching this movie kind of made me feel drunk?). Ambiguously super-powered Riki-Oh Saiga (Siu-Wong Fan) goes to jail for murdering a dude, but finds the futuristic privatized complex is totally corrupt or whatever. All the guards are killing people and Riki's gonna take everybody down to free the prisoners. Is that the story?

This movie is crazy times. The gore is plentiful- from shattered brains to ripped off faces to intestine choke-holds- but the effects are so low-grade they each read laughable OH SHIT moments. The plot doesn't really hold together, or at least not in any way that I could follow, but the weirdness of the characters and inventive action held me in their grip. I loved the bad guy "Gang of Four" group, who each had weird talents and shiny outfits. It's basically a live-action video game, with Riki moving up levels to more and more ridiculous fight scenes. The dubbed dialogue is clumsy and presumably poorly translated, but naturally that only adds to the fun!

I'm in a weird frenzied mood right now (well, the past week and a half really) so I can't think of much more to say. Riki-Oh is awesome (and surprisingly coming to Blu-ray soon). The end.

As a movie: Oh fuck who can know? I can't grade this movie on any normal scale. 2/5?
As entertainment: 4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Easy choice here, it's obviously Fist of the North Star. This is like the perfect double feature.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rockula (1990)

Seen: On netflix instant on my tv.

The other day I was surfing through Netflix's entire streaming library of musicals, because I'm basically on a musical high since seeing The Book of Mormon (and listening only to its soundtrack and little else for the past two weeks). I had either already seen or wasn't interested in most of the offerings, until at the end of the list I stumbled upon Rockula. The title alone was enough to reel me in, the movie itself kind of rocked me socks off. LITERALLY. The overcomplicated premise involves Ralph (Dean Cameron), a nerdy vampire who plays piano and lives with his hot mom (Toni Basil). He and his true love Mona (Tawny Fere) are caught up in a centuries-long curse that leads to her dying and being reborn every 22 years on Halloween- every time she's killed with a hambone (what?) by a peg-legged pirate and Ralph is unable to save her. This naturally has Ralph pretty depressed, and this Halloween he tries to avoid the situation entirely, only to find himself yet again wrapped up in love-sick shenanigans.

This movie is so ridiculous, and so earnest in its attempts to BE ridiculous, I couldn't help but kind of love it. It's steeped in strange and poorly explained mythology, including Ralph's sleazy alter-ego who lives in his mirror (probably my favorite character), his ability to turn into a squat, seemingly useless bat-like monster, his hatred for blood, the fact that sunscreen allows him to go into the sun, the whole... pirate/true love/curse... thing. Various ideas are offered and just as quickly forgotten or passed over, with a pacing that somehow moves really quickly while also nothing much really happens? It's incredible.

I'm not being sarcastic or ironic here, I really enjoyed this movie. It's weird and funny and the cast is great. I loved Thomas Dolby (in his only acting role!) as the malevolently British bad guy, Susan Tyrrell as a tough-talking bartender, and Toni Basil as the vampire MILF (totally hot at 47) who wears the tightest outfits imaginable and gets to dance a lot. I loved Dean Cameron's neuroses, bad hair, and dimpled chin. I loved Tawny Fere's wacky outfits and poorly-timed lip-syncing. I LOVE THAT THERE IS A BAND CALLED ROCKULA THAT INEXPLICABLY RAPS ABOUT VAMPIRE HOOKUPS ("He's the DJ, I am the vampire").

Oh yeah have I mentioned that this movie is a rock musical? Everything is synthy and over-produced and it's amazing. There are things like this and this and THIS and it's all the best.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Oooh that's a tough one... the only other vampire musical I can think of at the moment is Suck, but that movie isn't very good. Maybe Streets of Fire? Or Shock Treatment? Definitely something rockin' from the 80's.

PS Maybe writer/director Luco Bercovici has started following me on twitter? Can it really be him?

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Real Steel (2011)

Seen: At AMC/Loews Harvard Square in Cambridge.

Set in a future where human-on-human boxing has been replaced with giant remote-control robots destroying each other for profit, Real Steel tells the heartwarming tale of a boy (Dakota Goyo) who's forced to spend the summer with his asshole boxer father (Hugh Jackman) after his mother dies. They find a used training robot in a dump, fix it up, teach it to fight, and end up doing one of those "underdog" things. It's all pretty standard.

This movie is half things I like and half things I'm bored of, which makes it about 50% Good Movie. I like Hugh Jackman- especially when he gets to play a jerk- and big robots that fight each other. I don't like kids, poorly-rendered female characters, or un-self-aware schmaltz. The premise is solid, taking a few sports/bad parenting drama cliches and mixing them in with a digestible science-fiction angle. The effects are top-notch, and I enjoyed the robot designs and the scattered futuristic gadgets (technology is updated but otherwise this future looks the same as our present, proving it isn't too far off). My favorite thing was probably Karl Yune's depiction of the most "Japanese" dude ever- he's a fashionable scientist prodigy with a lofty attitude and a thing for big robots.

Seriously though what the hell is up with Evangeline Lilly's character? At first I was like, hey tomboy robot mechanic trying to fill her dad's shoes, I can get behind that. But very quickly it became apparent that her character Bailey is just a boring lady lusting after Hugh Jackman for no apparent reason. She has no other characteristics, really. She likes boxing, but I think that's only because Hugh Jackman boxes. It's not like I walked into Real Steel looking for well-rounded female (or male) characters, but why write such a noticeably stupid part into your movie? She's not a necessary figure, she's doesn't do anything for the story. It's just annoying. The moment when she's in ecstasy over a pretty chaste kiss is unintentionally hilarious.

Anyway, Real Steel is pretty enjoyable in a lot of ways, mostly in the big-robots-fighting-each-other kind of way. Sometimes I couldn't figure out how intentional its at-times overwhelming cheesiness is, which makes for uneven viewing. Also the bad guy wasn't set up enough, why should I care if they win or lose the big climactic fight? Kevin Durand was a bigger villain than the main evil lady was. And the whole thing is way too long- it takes FOREVER to get going.

3/5

Pair This Movie With: We watched the Richard Matheson Twilight Zone episode "Steel" with Lee Marvin that has a similar premise before going out to see the movie. Otherwise, I don't know, any of those movies where an asshole finds him/herself stuck with a child who makes him/her a better person? There are a few sports ones like that I think. It's not really my genre, except for About a Boy.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bunraku (2010) at 366 Weird Movies

Seen: At AMC/Loews Boston Common.

Ok so there's a movie with Woody Harrelson and Ron Perlman, and a beautifully androgynous Japanese singer named Gackt, and it's set in the future, and it's really pretty and colorful, and most of the runtime is just people fighting. What the fuck is not to like about that premise? Yes Bunraku is way too long and the characters are paper-thin, but since it's clear Guy Moshe didn't take the writing very seriously it was easy for me to do the same.

The point is, I thought this movie was pretty ok (not great, but fun enough), and I'm not sure why everyone else loathes it so passionately. For my full review, please check out my post at 366 Weird Movies!

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Girlfight (2000)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from netflix.

Set in and around the Jersey City projects, Girlfight follows tough-as-nails teenager Diana (Michelle Rodriguez) as she struggles to navigate two environments where she doesn't fit in- high school and family. She gets into fights and doesn't have many friends, and her stern widower father (Paul Calderon) doesn't know how to deal with her. She secretly enrolls in boxing classes alongside her younger brother (Ray Santiago)- a sensitive artist whom Dad wants to make into a man- and surprises everyone by holding her own against the all-male club.

Karyn Kusama's first feature and Michelle Rodriguez's first acting job, Girlfight is a truly impressive debut. I'll start right off by saying that typically I don't like boxing movies (hell, I don't like most sports movies), so the fact that I was almost immediately wholly engaged by this film does say something. And yes, because it focuses on a female protagonist I'm bound to be more interested anyway, but it's also the set-up Kusama gives for her character. Often I don't really care if people win or lose their big match at the end of a sports movie, since it seems like there isn't much at stake, but Diana is so determined to prove herself to everyone around her that I really wanted her to succeed. She's up against different odds and prejudices than most other boxers- she's one girl fighting a host of boys (and one girl later on). I love that mixed gender boxing is even a thing!

Michelle Rodriguez is so good in this movie, it's hard to believe she's primarily known for something like The Fast and the Furious. There is a palpable rage inside of Diana tinged with loneliness, desperation, and a dash of innocence. She is bold and brash to the point of rudeness, but means well and eventually tempers her combativeness around those she comes to love and respect. Kusama mixes scenes of touching teenage melodrama (ah, young love) and tense domestic atmosphere (that scene with Diana and her dad, my god- you know the one), but there are enough moments of levity and positivity that I wouldn't call it depressing. Just realistic.

This movie is so good, so gripping. I cared SO MUCH about these characters. My only criticism is that some of the subplots aren't resolved, with the final scenes focusing solely on Diana's fight and romance with fellow boxer Adrian (Santiago Douglas) and little resolution with her father and brother. It's not really a big deal though, since wrapping everything up in a neat little package is cheesy and untrue.

Also, Karyn Kusama: Why don't you write more movies? And why don't you direct better ones? You have no projects coming up on imdb and that makes me sad. I thought Jennifer's Body was ok, but I guess no one else did?

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: My favorite lady sports movie is Whip It, which features similar themes of coming-of-age, first love, kicking ass, etc.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Abyss (1989)

Seen: On dvd partly on my laptop (long bus ride) and partly on my tv (when I arrived home), rented from netflix.
84/100 on the sci-fi list.

With a 3+ hour running time, James Cameron's comprehensive thriller The Abyss details the events befalling an oil-drilling crew in the Caribbean. When a US Navy submarine carrying nuclear warheads is lost at sea, the government enlists the crew and equipment of Bud Brigman's (Ed Harris) rig to find it. They're paired up with a group of no-nonsense Navy SEALs led by Lt Coffey (Michael Biehn). While down there, a hurricane begins raging above and they are cut off from communication with the outside world. It also happens to be the Cold War so there's friction with the Soviet Union, who perceive the mission as some sort of secret underwater nuclear attack. Along for the ride is Lindsey Brigman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantino), the oil rig's inventor/designer and Bud's ex-wife. Also there are aliens.

Goddamn this movie is long! Jeez!

But good. There is so much going on it's certainly never boring, with an escalating series of more and more treacherous situations. Between the Cold War fears, the hurricane, and the dangerous underwater mission there isn't even really a need for the sci-fi alien stuff, which is woven in as a metaphor as the story progresses. The tension steadily builds to insane nail-biting amounts, and I'm kind of glad I didn't see this in a theater since it would have freaked me out too much. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the various aquatic conveyances made me physically uncomfortable, and the very apparent threat of death by drowning at any given moment made me queasy. I count these as points in the film's favor, since Cameron proves himself adept at creating very believable danger and emotional stress; I couldn't help but be very affected.

The characters are fun and sympathetic, most very much in the Cameron mold. There's a goofy nerd, some tough guys, a rough-edged but good-hearted hero, and two totally badass ladies. I found Michael Biehn's character Lt Coffey to be the most interesting, though (and not just because I'm a little obsessed with Michael Biehn! I know what you're thinking!). He is a gruff and authoritative Navy SEAL, who follows orders without question but starts to lose it when he's cut off from his chain of command. He also seems to suffer from a sickness that affects some people under the heavy pressure of underwater living, resulting in slurred speech, loss of motor skills, and impaired judgment. He slowly gets crazier and crazier but his knowledge of the nuclear missiles aboard the sub and his advanced military training make him a formidable crazy person. And yet another problem for our protagonists to deal with.

The Abyss is a pretty cool movie, but there's just too much going on. It's not that there are parts of the story I didn't like, it's just that we really didn't need so much story in general. The alien segments- while pretty in their effects and relevant to the film's pacifist statement- are probably the most unnecessary. Well, that or the whole Soviet angle, which is just dated and hard to take seriously since the movie is from 1989 and I know that the USSR was really NOT a problem for the US at that point.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Man if you have the stamina for another movie, good for you! I think the claustrophobic tension of Alien would work well with this.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Movie Sketch Project #56

Urgh I totally have been falling behind in my art-making! There's a lot going on around here right now and I don't ever seem to have free time. But hopefully I can set things straight soon. Anyway, here's a new poster! I went to a midnight showing of Clueless last week and it was awesome, so I thought I'd make a poster for it since it's one of my favorite movies. This started out as a drawing on paper then I did photoshoppy things with it on our shiny new computer. I used CS5 for the first time and everything! Wow! I think it came out pretty well.

It's for sale on etsy! Hooray! Also I just took a paycut so if anyone wants to support a hardworking lady who never gets paid enough, please consider buying something from my shop/telling friends with money about it?




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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dick Tracy (1990)

Seen: On tv at my parents' house, I forget which channel. One of the HD movie channels.

I've been meaning to see this one for a while, mainly because it feels like it's referenced often. I haven't read the comic it's based on but I do like pretty colors, so it seemed a good fit. Directed by and starring Warren Beatty, Dick Tracy sees the titular detective trying to take down powerful crime boss Big Boy Caprice (Al Pacino) and his gang of cartoonish underlings. He also takes in a crass young boy known only as "Kid" (Charlie Korsmo) and tries not to cheat on his girlfriend Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) with the seductive mob singer Breathless Mahoney (Madonna).

Like I said, I haven't read the comics, but from what I can gather Beatty and writers Jim Cash and Jack Epps, Jr tried to incorporate as much as they could from the source material (with the fear they wouldn't get a sequel). This means there are way too many characters and an abundance of half-realized subplots, making the final product jumbled and hard to follow. I liked a lot of the characters and it's not like "cop takes down mob boss" is that much of a tricky premise, but somehow I became lost in all that was going on and it just made me sort of bored at points. The fact that most of the action sequences are shown as truncated montages doesn't help. I enjoyed much of the cast, though- from Beatty's grizzled but warm-hearted detective and Madonna's put-upon lounge singer to Mandy Patinkin's wide-eyed piano player and Pacino's shouty bad guy. The main thing to remember here though is that Tess Trueheart is basically a badass until she gets kidnapped.

With its candy-colored palette and detailed set pieces, Dick Tracy is certainly easy on the eyes. Beatty's attempt to re-create the look of the comics down to the exaggerated costumes and faces is admirable but it doesn't quite work in practice. I loved the overall look of the film, but found the prosthetic faces of the villains distracting and just off-putting. It's a noble gesture and everything but would fans of the comic have minded if the movie versions of these characters had more realistic faces? I really don't know. I understand giving them some exaggerated characteristics but this is too much.

All in all Dick Tracy has some fun moments (I did enjoy Madonna's Sondheim-penned musical numbers) and beautiful visuals, but as a whole it's too convoluted. I definitely respect what Beatty tried to do here and I'm glad that even if the story isn't the best, the execution is memorable and different. The talented (and HUGE) cast helps keep things moving, with appearances from Dick Van Dyke, James Caan, Kathy Bates, Catherine O'Hara, and Dustin Hoffman.

3/5

Pair This Movie With: My first thought is Johnny Dangerously, but I also think it might be fun to put this with Sin City for another highly stylized neo-noir-comic-type film.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)

Seen: At the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, as part of the CineCache screening series.

With its elusive, tongue-twisting title, it's not immediately apparent how completely engulfing a film Martha Marcy May Marlene really is. Sean Durkin's stunning feature debut turns a close eye on Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), a confused young woman who moves in with her recently-married older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) after spending time with an abusive cult. Her family doesn't know where she's been or how she's been affected, and the more time she spends with her sister the more apparent it becomes that something is seriously wrong. The film splits its time evenly between Martha's present experiences in Lucy's lakeside vacation home and her past two years in an upstate New York commune. Her fractured psyche and fragile mental state are slowly revealed as her paranoia and social uncertainty take over.

With his camera rarely leaving Elizabeth Olsen, Durkin provides an intimate and telling experience for the viewer that combines fantastic cinematography with intense personal perspective. Her story is halting and haunting, with an exceptional sense of pacing that allows the tension and fear to subtly and slowly build until a house party becomes one of the most terrifying scenes I can imagine. The high-pitched noise-music increases the effect tenfold.

As we switch back and forth between Martha's experiences, it's often hard to tell exactly which time we're being shown. Both her present and her past seem wholly defined by the house where she's living, lending a claustrophobic air to her existence, and Durkin's tight camerawork can make it hard to differentiate between the two houses. This is a perfect way to encapsulate Martha's confused state; she seems to be living in two worlds simultaneously, equally desperate to settle down into a family and break free from the confines and judgments of those around her.

Elizabeth Olsen's performance has been the main point of praise for Martha, and with good reason. She is exceptional in the title role (all three!), proving herself a mature and surprisingly changeable performer. I swear her face transformed itself multiple times and I can't explain how. She could be the naive, good-natured girl so easily manipulated by Patrick (John "Always Awesome" Hawkes), the cult's appropriately charismatic and scary leader and then in the next scene morph into a combative and seemingly in-control woman. I couldn't get a handle on her age because even that seemed to change. It's a remarkable turn that just perfectly captures this character's moment of crisis as she flips between her varying personas.

This movie is fantastic. It's everything a family drama, realistic character study, and nail-biting thriller need to be, all wrapped up in one film. It's probably one of the best debut features I've seen. And that ENDING. GOD. DAMN.

4.5/5

Pair This Movie With: I can't think of another cult-inspired movie I've seen, though I'm sure there are a few in here somewhere. Oddly enough as I was waiting in line for the film I was reading the essay "Leslie" in John Waters' newest book Role Models. He talks about his friendship with former Manson Family member Leslie Van Houten and her time with that group, and it definitely stuck with me as I watched this film since there are some parallels. Otherwise, I don't know. Maybe Winter's Bone for another intense, lady-driven movie with John Hawkes?

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Altered States (1980)

Seen: On dvd on our big screen/projector set-up, from my personal collection (recently acquired for $2 at a dvd sale at my workplace!). 83/100 on the Sci-Fi List.

When Dr Jessup (William Hurt), a confident young scientist, begins experimenting with an isolation tank he taps into his long-dormant religious fervor. After subsequent years as a professor at Harvard and distant husband to fellow academic Emily (Blair Brown), he delves back into this research by pairing it with a mysterious substance used by a native Mexican people. He experiences crazy hallucinations that eventually develop into actual periods of regression to a pre-human state.

Gahhh I cannot seem to collect my thoughts on Altered States. The story makes less and less sense as the film goes on, moving from innocent isolation tank science to de-evolution, primordial meltdown, and progressively trippier imagery. The plot is fairly loose, focusing mainly on Jessup's continuing experiments and how his closest friends (including Bob Balaban) and wife respond. William Hurt is phenomenal in the lead (his first film role!), imbuing Jessup with charisma and a slightly manic edge. Also he's naked, like, ALL the time, but you don't see much except a few butt flashes. Cop-out. We totally see Blair Brown's boobs though, naturally.

Ken Russell, that notorious dreamweaver, incorporates a range of strange and wild techniques to take what could be a serious philosophical investigation of the foundations of human existence and turn it into WACKY TIMES. At first it's a lot of quick cuts, bright lights, bastardized religious iconography, and pretty colors, but by the final scenes it's all just a succession of "holy shit what the hell is happening what am I looking at am I going to die oh shit". You know how it is.

Sure, a good portion of Altered States is just William Hurt hanging out and getting high in the name of science, and the script isn't the strongest, but it's so well-acted and imaginative that I couldn't help but be taken by it. I'm not really sure what it was actually about under the surface, but I think I have a few re-watches ahead of me.

Oh, and it's got a monkey. Um. Sort of.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Something trippy and mad-sciencey like The Fly or From Beyond would be fun.

PS I am 100% convinced that the end of A-Ha's "Take on Me" video (aka my favorite music video ever, literally) references/steals the final scene in Altered States. That's so unexpected and great.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Location-Based Musicals Double Feature: On the Town (1949) and On the Riviera (1951)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, both from my personal collection.

I was in a serious musical mood the other day and was so pleased to re-discover my On The Town dvd. I realized it goes well with a recent surprise gift from my totally awesome grandma, On the Riviera. And so a double feature was born! Both films are musicals from around the same time, though they approach the genre differently, with spontaneous singing and dancing in the former and stage numbers only in the latter. Both also utilize their locations quite specifically, with beautiful shots of On The Town's New York City and On the Riviera's Southern France setting the tone for their respective story lines. Plus they both have mistaken/confused identities! I love that!

When three close but totally-not-gay sailors are given 24 hours of shore leave in New York City, they each have different priorities. Chip (Frank Sinatra) wants to see the sights, Ozzie (Jules Munchin) wants to see some ladies, and Gabey (Gene Kelly) wants to stalk the lovely "Miss Turnstiles" (Vera-Ellen), a nightclub dancer he mistakes for a celebrity. The three team up with Hildy (Betty Garrett), a cab driver with moxie, and Claire (Ann Miller), a sensual anthropologist, to track her down. Various hi-jinks and musical numbers ensue.

Written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, On the Town is an earlier pairing of the dream team behind Singin' in the Rain. It's got the trademark wit and smarm paired with lively dance numbers and a lot of great NYC locations (this is possibly the first musical to be filmed outside of a studio set?). The songs are fun, though I'd say "New York, New York" is the only really memorable one. Well, that and "Come Up to My Place", Sinatra's hilarious duet with Garrett. The cast is what makes this one, with just an absolutely stellar group of 6 leads who all play off one another remarkably well. I love me some Vera-Ellen and Ann Miller, but Betty Garrett is the one who stands out the most (and has the most fun) as the brassy Hildy, a working girl who knows what she wants and doesn't care who knows it. I liked her spunk. And Miller gets a surprisingly sexual number in her intro scene, which I appreciated. Both of these women are really quite forward and in control of their romantic situation, which is pretty cool for a fluffy 1949 musical I'd say.

The film as a whole is a bit too dated for me to really love, and the story is laughably thin, but it's one of the first classic musicals I ever watched, plus my high school did it for the spring play when I was in stage crew, so it certainly holds a lot of nostalgic enjoyment for me.

4/5

Based on the play The Red Cat (with a screenplay co-written by Nora Ephron's mom!), On the Riviera stars Danny Kaye as both American stage comedian Jack Martin and famed philandering French pilot Henri Duran, both living along the titular French coast. When it becomes clear that the two look almost exactly alike, Martin is employed by Duran's friends to impersonate the pilot at a party, hoping to fool a man he owes money to. Martin's romance with his stage partner Colette (Corinne Calvet) and Duran's strained marriage to Lil (Gene Tierney) are both at risk when the switch takes place.

Seemingly incapable of playing only one person, Kaye is yet again able to shine in multiple roles as both the charismatic, stuffy pilot who seems to have inexhaustible luck with the ladies (where does he find the time!?), and the goofy, talented stage comedian. He gets to make out with both Gene Tierney and Corinne Calvet, so I guess that was a big incentive as well. The story is loose and predictable, but it showcases its stars well (though Calvet doesn't get much to do) and there are some great musical numbers. I especially like Kaye's soft-spoken rendition of "Ballin' the Jack". The film as a whole isn't the most memorable, but it has some very funny and enjoyable moments, including various mistaken identity jokes and digs at Duran's stamina. You know me, if Danny Kaye is around I'm satisfied.

3.5/5

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